Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall’s wife Cecilia “Cissy” Suyat Marshall died on Nov. 22 in Falls Church, Va. The former National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Secretary was 94. The Supreme Court released a statement about her death but did not cite a cause.
Cecilia worked alongside Thurgood when he was a lawyer at the NAACP before he became the country’s high court’s first Black justice in 1967. Prior to this, Thurgood, a civil rights lawyer, became well-known when he argued the landmark Brown v. Board of Education case that outlawed segregation in public schools. He retired from the high court in 1991 and died in 1993 at the age of 84.
Cecilia, who was of Filipino descent and the daughter of Philippine immigrants, Mrs. Marshall, was born in Hawaii on July 20, 1928. She later moved to New York City and took night classes at Columbia University to become a stenographer. In 1948, she took a job at the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the Philadelphia Tribune reported.
A clerk at an employment office “saw my dark skin, and she sent me to the national office of the NAACP,” she told The Washington Post years later.
She worked on school desegregation cases for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, typing briefs and taking notes as lawyers rehearsed oral arguments, The Washington Post. She worked with Thurgood on various cases.
Thurgood’s first wife, Vivien Burey, died of lung cancer in 1955. He and Cecilia married later that year on Dec. 17, 1955, at an Episcopal church in Harlem, where Roy Wilkins, then executive secretary of the NAACP, gave Cecilia away. Cecilia left the NAACP after they wed. They had two sons, Thurgood Jr. and John.
Supreme Court Associate Justice Thurgood Marshall, right, stands with his family as they watch him take his seat at the court for the first time, Oct. 2, 1967. From left are Marshall’s son Thurgood, Jr., 11, wife Cecilia Suyat, and son John, 9. Marshall joined the Supreme Court in 1967 as the court’s first Black justice. (AP Photo/Henry Griffin, File)